Voices in the wind

In 2009, pediatrician Nina Pierpoint proposed a condition called wind turbine syndrome—a series of ailments caused by the noise of wind turbines—and researchers have been actively debunking its validity ever since. Pierpoint’s claim came into the spotlight after residents who lived near wind turbines began experiencing physical discomfort and sickness, including migraines, nausea and anxiety. The residents were adamant that the low frequency noise produced by the turbines, which has been proven to be no louder than the hum of traffic or human conversation, was affecting their health. Hard science has yet to back up Pierpoint’s claim, and a team of researchers who shared their results last week in Environmental Research Letters once again found no evidence that turbines caused any harm to humans. The researchers acknowledged that some of the members of the experiment had trouble sleeping, but that there were many other variables that could contribute to annoyance and illness—including anticipatory stress about the actual presence of wind turbines and concern about their impact on the value of real estate.

Wind turbines have potentially negative environmental effects, such as disrupting the flight paths of birds and other wildlife or causing a change in climate, if the demand for wind power increases exponentially. But wind power currently stands as one of the cleanest forms of collecting energy and nearly all studies conducted on WTS have concluded that symptoms of the residents are largely psychosomatic.